EEOC Executives Say Thomas Punished Sex Harassers in His Own Agency
NEW YORK (AP) _ Clarence Thomas pushed for harsh penalties against subordinates guilty of the sort of sexual harassment allegations now besieging him, government officials who once worked under him said Wednesday.
They said the Supreme Court nominee’s performance as chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission shows he isn’t the kind of person who would commit sexual harassment.
On Tuesday, the Senate delayed a vote on Thomas’ confirmation to further investigate an allegation by a former Thomas aide, law professor Anita Hill, that he sexually harassed her a decade ago when he was chairman of the EEOC and earlier when both worked at the Education Department. Thomas, a federal appellate judge, has denied the accusations.
Ronnie Blumenthal, a 22-year veteran of the EEOC and the acting director of its office of communications and legislative affairs, said Thomas routinely disciplined subordinates accused of sexual harassment. Blumenthal, who spoke at a human resources conference, also said she’d never seen Thomas display the behavior described by Hill.
She didn’t elaborate on specific instances when Thomas disciplined those accused of sexual harassment, but other veteran EEOC officials contacted later gave more details.
Reginald Welch, a spokesman who has been with the EEOC since 1974, said that in one such instance the early 1980s Thomas urged that a high-level official be terminated instead of suspended or demoted, as originally suggested.
Dolores Rozzi, the EEOC’s director of federal operations and a 17-year veteran, told of another instance in which she urged Thomas to be lenient with an employee whom she believed was innocent of sexual harassment. Rozzi said Thomas declined her request and demoted the worker.
Rozzi said Thomas dealt with it harshly because he believed sexual harassment was ″such a egregious crime.″
″The feeling around the commission always was that you don’t go to Clarence Thomas with dirty hands,″ Rozzi said. ″He’s one man I knew personally would never cheat or lie.″
Nancy Kreiter, research director at Women Employed, a Chicago-based group advocating women’s rights in the workplace, said she knew of no written internal EEOC guidelines indicating that Thomas had a strict policy on sexual harassment.
She said that organizations and businesses that have progressive policies typically disseminate written guidelines to employees.
Rozzi said Thomas had distributed a written statement several years ago, but she couldn’t remember its contents. Welch, the EEOC spokesman, said he also recalled such a memo, but couldn’t immediately locate a copy.
″I remember something coming out and making it very clear sexual harassment would not be tolerated in the workplace,″ Rozzi said. ″It was very clearly communicated that he was very opposed - he felt it was one of the worst kinds of insults.″